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FOOTBALL: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reflects on his side’s 4-1 FA Cup victory over Fulham
By on February 7th, 2022. Entertainment
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Manchester City get a massive boost at just the right time, when it appears that they are about to stumble. It could be enough to put an end to neutrals’ flimsy hopes of a Premier League title race.

 

On a rather gloomy note, City has been gone for a fortnight for the winter holiday.

City’s 12-game winning streak came to an end in a 1-1 draw against a spirited Southampton team, in which City lacked their usual ruthlessness in front of goal.

 

Chelsea and Liverpool both won on the same weekend, closing the gap at the top for the first time in weeks and breathing life into the dying embers of a competitive season.

 

As Pep Guardiola has consistently stated, the title is far from a fait conclusion at this time.

 

The preceding two weeks provided much-needed rest and recovery time for the vast bulk of the City squad ahead of the Champions League’s restart, but it also meant that City couldn’t jump back on the horse and resume winning ways right once.

 

Then came Saturday, when the first game back was an FA Cup fifth-round tie. While nobody expected City to lose, they were up against Fulham, who had scored 23 goals in their previous five games in the Championship.

 

The preceding two weeks provided much-needed rest and recovery time for the vast bulk of City’s team ahead of the Champions League’s restart, but it also meant that City couldn’t quickly get back on track and win again.

 

Then came Saturday, with an FA Cup fifth-round tie as the team’s first game back. While few expected City to lose, they were facing Fulham, who had scored 23 goals in their previous five games in the Championship.

 

A returning Riyad Mahrez set up the goal with a fantastic looping ball that he took down with his knee before finding the German to tip it home.

 

City took the lead through John Stones before Mahrez clinched the win with a four-goal second-half brace, the first from the penalty spot and the second from a strike across the goalie after being set up by Kevin De Bruyne.

 

The goals increased Mahrez’s lead as the Blues’ leading scorer for the season, and his return couldn’t have come at a better moment.

 

While competing in the African Cup of Nations, Mahrez had a rough January. His native Algeria was the defending champion, but they struggled in their group, losing all three games to Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Sierra Leone. With only one point, they were relegated to the bottom of the standings and were forced to leave early.

 

The forward missed the Saints’ draw because he was given a week off, but he is now back in the fold, and City are reaping the benefits.

Just when it looked like a glitch would turn into a problem, Mahrez calmed the jitters and ensured there wouldn’t be a confidence-shattering setback like Manchester United’s on Friday night.

Chelsea and Liverpool were offered a glimmer of optimism two weeks ago, but as they struggled to overcome even lower-league opponents than Fulham this weekend, that glimmer has faded as City have thrown off their funk.

After not allowing a minor glitch to derail them, City return to Premier League action this week, and shortly the European knockout stages, with a replenished squad and renewed confidence.

They needed a jolt, and Mahrez provided one.

 

 

 

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